I love thinking about old houses, and the environment that people lived in, in the past. Isn't it fascinating to look at an old house and imagine people living in that space throughout the age of that house! Isn't it weird to think of the often-times large families that once occupied those rooms and how nowadays people in the western world wouldn't even imagine living as cramped as they once did.
One area that I find particularly interesting to think about are the areas that were actually used on a regular basis such as the kitchen. Too bad, when people took those few precious pictures in the past, they didn't exactly prioritize taking a picture in the kitchen while cooking dinner!
The other day I was talking to my mother-in-law about kitchens and we came upon the subject of her childhood home, the house that her grandfather built in the 1930s. I asked her a million questions about the look of the kitchen and the house overall and slowly but surely an image started to take form in my mind. "What were the countertops like?" I asked, and she replied: "There were no countertops." No countertops! Now isn't that weird to wrap your mind around! Apparently they had one of those very large gas stoves that took up an entire wall in the kitchen, and then there was a large farmhouse sink with space for dishes, but no countertops! She also told me there was little storage space and the few cabinets that existed were painted green. On the floor there was green linoleum.
"It was a large kitchen, but the space wasn't very well utilized." she described. And that concept always struck me when looking at pictures of old kitchens. There were very few workable areas; you had the large stove and the sink area, and then you did your prep work on a table.
Out of all the rooms in the home, it seems to me that the kitchen is the one that has gone through the biggest change more or less, in the 20th century. In the living room, people still have sofas and chairs, and except for the addition of a TV and other electronics, very little has changed. The same thing goes for the dining room and the bedrooms, those are spaces to eat and to sleep in. But the kitchens! Nowadays the kitchen should be super efficient with lots of storage space, large countertops, a dishwasher, a microwave, a toaster oven and often a million other gadgets. Not to mention the concept of the kitchen as a social space and not merely a work space, has completely changed. The functionality of the kitchen is definitely a priority, and nowadays you wouldn't think of having a large kitchen and not utilize it properly with lots of work- and storage areas.
However, this is all kind of counter-intuitive at the same time, don't you think? People cook less these days, and most likely spend a lot less time in their kitchens than their grandmother's did in the past (and yes I know, women are working these days and don't have the time etc…) Yet functionality is a top priority if you're redesigning your kitchen today (maybe because you better utilize the little time you're devoting to cooking in your kitchen as efficiently as possible?)
In either case, I like to think about those old kitchens, those so very well used kitchens, where hours were spent actually cooking and baking. Those kitchens that didn't have fancy equipment, or a self cleaning oven, but the oven you did have was the most important piece of equipment in the house. So maybe these women worked a little harder in the kitchen than people do know. But overall, they used it more, and their families were probably the better for it. So perhaps we should all focus a little more on actually making things in our kitchens. Maybe we should prioritize cooking real food and baking real bread, and think a little less about getting those expensive countertops to keep up with the neighbors, which would put you in debt anyway, and probably not make you any more happy at the end of the day... Maybe we all just need an oven, a sink, a fridge and a farmhouse table (and more time and focus) and call it a day.